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Use Timed Access Control to restrict when devices can connect to your Apple base station Wi-Fi

Glenn Fleishman | Jan. 4, 2016
Your AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule router can block certain devices at certain times of day, based on the device's MAC address. Here's how to set it up.

Worried that your teen or tween is spending all night unwired to her or his iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad? Want your always-on Internet of Things device to be not-always-connected? While Mac OS X has timed access controls that let you specify during which hours a computer account may be used as well as a cumulative daily limit, iOS devices lack such options so many years into development, and only some third-party equipment lets you set active hours.

But if you have a network of all Apple Wi-Fi base stations, you can set timed access in a manner that sticks for wirelessly connected hardware. The Access Control option only lets you choose days of the week and times of the day to block usage, but it’s effective.

This option doesn’t work to restrict cellular access for iPhones or iPads with active data plans, which can rely on a mobile network. iOS has a Restrictions feature, but it doesn’t meet the bill. This method here will work with any Wi-Fi-connected Mac or other device—ethernet-connected hardware isn’t affected.

Uniquely identified devices

private i ios mac address
iOS puts its MAC address in General > About.

Timed Access Control relies on the unique network adapter identifier (called the MAC or Media Access Control address) that’s assigned to every ethernet and Wi-Fi adapter. In iOS, you find this identifier in the Settings app. Tap General > About. The value next to the Wi-Fi Address (something like D8:30:62:55:DE:B9) is what you need. In OS X, open the Network pane in System Preferences, click the Wi-Fi adapter in the left bar, click the Advanced button, and then the Hardware tab to get the MAC address.

private i find osx mac address
OS X puts the MAC address in a network adapter’s Advanced settings.

You can also retrieve these from AirPort Utility all at once:

  1. Launch AirPort Utility (found in /Applications/Utilities/).
  2. Select your base station, and then Option-click Edit. (Enter the base station’s password if prompted.)
  3. In the Summary tab, which is normally hidden, you’ll see a list of all active Wireless Clients in a list.
  4. Click the expand triangle next to each entry, which typically has the Bonjour or other identifying name, to view the Hardware Address.

Whatever your approach, type the MAC addresses into a text document, so you can copy and paste them later to set up access control. Both your regular network and guest networks are controlled by the same, single set of restrictions.

(While MAC addresses can be modified on computers through the use of command-line or other software—often to let one computer spoof the identify of another to access a network the user has no access to—the MAC address on an iOS device can’t be changed. This lets you use the MAC address as a reliable ID.)


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